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Fischer Granted Citizenship In Iceland

Ex-Chess Champ Faces U.S. Charges

By Valur Gunnarson
Associated Press
Tuesday, March 22, 2005; Page A13

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, March 21 -- Iceland, the country where Bobby Fischer won the world chess championship a generation ago, granted citizenship to the 62-year-old recluse Monday, a boost to Fischer's efforts to fight deportation from Japan to the United States.

Fischer, who is wanted by the United States for violating economic sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing a highly publicized match there in 1992, has been in Japanese custody since July. He was detained while trying to board a flight with an invalid passport.

Immigration officials in Iceland said a passport for Fischer could be ready as early as Tuesday.

There is widespread support for Fischer in Iceland. The Icelandic parliament, known as the Althing, passed a bill on his citizenship that took effect immediately.

Fischer and his supporters have staged several public attempts to fight the deportation order. "I am very pleased with this, and I think that the dignity of the parliament has increased," Saemundur Palsson, a Fischer friend and supporter, said after the vote.

Palsson has asserted that Japan confirmed it would allow Fischer to go to Iceland if citizenship were granted, but Japanese officials have made no such statement.

[Japanese Justice Minister Chieko Nohno told reporters on Tuesday that Tokyo will consider sending Fischer to Iceland once it confirms that he has been granted citizenship there, according to the Reuters news agency.]

Since being taken into custody, Fischer has denounced the U.S. deportation order as politically motivated, demanded refugee status, renounced his U.S. citizenship and said he wanted to become a German national. He also has applied to marry Miyoko Watai, head of the Japan Chess Association.

Fischer became an icon in 1972 when he dethroned the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in games in Reykjavik to claim America's first world chess championship in more than a century. But a few years later he forfeited the title to another Soviet, Anatoly Karpov, when he refused to defend it.

He then fell into obscurity before resurfacing in 1992 to play a rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia.

Fischer won the match on the resort island of Sveti Stefan. But it was played in violation of U.S. and U.N. sanctions imposed to punish President Slobodan Milosevic and resulted in legal action by the U.S. government. If convicted, Fischer, who has not been to the United States since before the match, could face 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Fischer also has emerged from silence in radio broadcasts and on his Web site to express anti-Semitic views and rail against the United States. A federal grand jury in Washington, meanwhile, is investigating possible money-laundering charges involving Fischer, one of his lawyers, Richard J. Vattuone, said this month.

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